The cardiovascular effects of antidepressants

Psychol Med Monogr Suppl. 1989;16:i-iii, 1-40. doi: 10.1017/s0264180100000709.


This monograph comprises a review of the cardiovascular effects of the various types of antidepressant drugs in clinical use. The frequency, severity and clinical importance of these effects are placed in perspective. Most antidepressants can cause changes in blood pressure. Both the tricyclic type (TCA) and the monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) can produce postural hypotension which may be dose-limiting. In addition, the MAOIs may be associated with severe hypertension when amine-containing foods or medicines are ingested. It is unlikely that therapeutic doses of any available antidepressant drug could impair cardiac contractility. Typical TCAs can cause abnormalities of cardiac conduction and arrhythmias, but this affects less than 5% of patients, mostly to a clinically insignificant extent. Newer compounds such as lofepramine, mianserin, trazodone and viloxazine seem safer in this respect. Reports of an association between therapeutic use of TCAs and sudden death are far from convincing. Overdosage with the MAOIs, lithium and carbamazepine is dangerous but not common; overdose with a TCA is a major source of morbidity and mortality. Lofepramine, mianserin and trazodone are relatively safe in overdose. The use of various antidepressants in patients with hypertension, cardiac failure, angina pectoris, myocardial infarction, or cardiac arrhythmias is discussed and guidelines suggested for the selection and use of antidepressant medication.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antidepressive Agents / adverse effects*
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / chemically induced
  • Cardiovascular System / drug effects*
  • Depressive Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Electrocardiography / drug effects*
  • Hemodynamics / drug effects*
  • Humans


  • Antidepressive Agents